DreamWorks summer comedy “Tropic Thunder” reps Ben Stiller’s boldest career move yet, with controversial themes and a big budget (around $100 million) melding with a very personal comedic vision.
“The process was so much about the movie that I didn’t even think about the pressure or the actual outcome,” he says. “I really waited until it was done to sort of think about that.”
Things could have gone the other way for the pedigreed multihyphenate, who toiled for years to get his Hollywood-skewering homage to Vietnam-themed action filmmaking greenlit.
For starters, the protests could have gotten out of hand — co-star Robert Downey Jr. appears throughout the film in blackface, and Stiller’s own riff on awards-hawking actors who take on lovable but mentally disadvantaged roles was poorly received by numerous advocacy orgs.
Worse, the moviegoing public might not have gotten the joke. And possessing lead actor, helmer and co-writer credits, Stiller was, in a word, accountable.
In the end, the film’s undeniable commercial success (nearly $160 million in global box office) easily offset any potential hazard. And Stiller, who just wrapped the sequel to 2006 blockbuster “Night at the Museum,” is now hungry to pursue more such personal, instinctual projects through his Red Hour production banner.
“It’s been a good lesson,” he notes. “It’s inspired me to get the other ones made.”